NRHEG Survives Playoff Scare with Last-Second Free Throws
Top-seed New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva boys' basketball team was locked in a tight back-and-forth playoff game with Blue Earth Area, a team the Panthers had beaten by 32 points on February 20. The defending section Panthers pulled out a 49-47 victory in the Section 2AA south subsection semifinals at Mankato East High School Thursday on Brady Agrimson's two free throws with :02.5 remaining.
Seconds earlier, the Panthers had the ball and a 47-45 lead but were called for traveling. The Bucs hit a shot in the lane with about 25 seconds left to tie the game at 47-47. NRHEG ran their game-ending play through top-scorer Benji Lundberg, who drove to the hoop with time running out and dished the ball to Agrimson who was fouled on the floor, sending him to the foul line for a one-and-one. He connected on both shots for the two-point lead 49-47. Blue Earth Area had their length-of-the-court inbound stolen to end the game.
Panthers' coach Pat Churchill said he didn't want to call timeout before the last play, to prevent Blue Earth from changing up their defense, something they frequently did throughout the night. He said the Panthers settled for jump shots too often in the first half and trailed 25-24 at the break. NRHEG missed their first six three-point attempts and were only 10-for-33 shooting in the first half.
The game featured 15 lead changes, ten of those in the first half. The Panthers biggest lead came at 47-42, but only lasted a few seconds as the Bucs drilled a three-point shot moments later to set the stage for the final thrills. Lundberg led NRHEG with 19 points, which included three treys. Agrimson scored 12. Jacob Schuller and Ryan Hannegrefs each scored seven. Jerret Utpadel hit two critical shots in the second half.
NRHEG (24-3) faces Maple River (19-9) Monday night at 8PM at Minnesota State University in Mankato in the subsection final on Kat Kountry 105FM. MR beat St. Peter Thursday 68-57. The Panthers swept the Eagles 77-63 and 56-42 this season. Jordan plays Sibley East in the north final at 6PM Monday. The winners meet Friday, March 16 at MSU in the section championship game.